Nov 05 2014 Posted: 16:31 GMT

Questions relating to pricing healthcare were discussed at a major international conference in NUI Galway yesterday.

The conference was titled ‘Pricing Healthcare: The role of health economics evaluation in the emerging healthcare landscape in Ireland’. It brought together leading health economists from the UK and Ireland. It also included contributions from other stakeholders in the healthcare sector such as the pharmaceutical industry, clinicians, private health insurance companies, as well as leading representatives from the key decision making agencies in Ireland in this area such as the HSE, HIQA and the National Centre for Pharmaeconomics. The opening address at the conference was delivered by Ms. Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director of Novartis Ireland. The closing address at the conference was delivered by the President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne.

Every country in the EU and most countries in the OECD fund more than 50% of the total expenditure on healthcare in any year. The average across the OECD is around 72% and the share of total health expenditure in Ireland that the Government spends is about 67%.

According to Brendan Kennelly, a lecturer in Health Economics at NUI Galway, who chaired the conference: “In any system dominated by public expenditure a critical question arises as to what healthcare should be provided. There are a host of competing demands across disease areas, across care levels, across population groups and across social classes. All of them have strong arguments that the particular intervention that they advocate should be funded. The demand for healthcare is likely to rise as the population ages. Medical innovations, as well as social, behavioural and environmental changes, have meant that more people are able to survive with chronic illnesses. In addition, research in diseases such as cancer continues to hold out the promise that new targeted therapies will be more successful in treating illnesses that hitherto were untreatable.”

He continued: “However, resources are limited so the question arises as to how should a society decide on which particular elements of healthcare should be prioritised? This is a very challenging question and it is linked to another possibly more challenging question, namely how is health produced and how is it distributed across a population. Health or ill health are caused by a myriad of factors - biological, social, behavioural, psychological – and what a society would like to supply as regards healthcare is inextricably linked with what it thinks about how health is produced and how healthcare should be regarded.”

The conference was jointly organised by Novartis Ireland and the Health Economics and Policy Analysis research group at NUI Galway. The group, which comprises about twenty academics, researchers and PhD students, conducts a wide range of research and has particular expertise in disease areas such as dementia, cancer, diabetes, stroke and mental health. The group works closely with clinical staff in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway and elsewhere and with leading health economists around the world. The Health Economics and Policy Analysis research group is merely one example of a strategic targeted approach to biomedical engineering research at NUI Galway which has succeeded in the university establishing itself as a leading player in health related research.

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